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Natural resources are being depleted rapidly, particularly with the increasing use of disposable products and packaging. In 2005, Americans generated 246 million tons of municipal solid waste while recycling only 58 million tons of materials. This rate of use and disposal takes a heavy toll on the natural resources, especially the finite resources from mines.
Reprocessing used materials to make new products and packaging reduces the consumption of natural resources. By recycling five million tons of steel in 2005, Americans saved over six million tons of iron ore, 2.5 million tons of coal, and 62,500 tons of limestone. By recycling 42 million tons of newsprint, office paper and paperboard, Americans saved 714 million trees and 292,026 million gallons of water. Recycling often produces better products than those made of virgin materials; for instance, the tin in "tin" cans is more refined (thus more valuable) after being processed for recycling.
(Source: Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2005 Facts and Figures, U.S. EPA, 2006).